I missed a couple of concerts at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) due to my schedule the last couple of weeks, but I was fortunate enough to catch the final performance of the most recent program, which featured excerpts from Franz Schubert’s Rosamunde (D. 797), Elliot Carter’s Flute Concerto, and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E Minor (Op. 98). This was the second program featuring BSO Music Director James Levine’s triumphant return, after a prolonged absence due to a successful back surgery.
Naturally I am always excited to hear Brahms’ Fourth, but I also have a special place in my heart for the Rosamunde, having played parts of the Ballet Music II: Andantino in a regional orchestra many years ago. I’m not particularly keen on flute concertos, having most recently heard James Galway performing Jacques Ibert’s Flute Concerto No. 1, but I greatly respect BSO Principal Flutist Elizabeth Rowe, having heard her solo with the BSO and in the chamber group in previous performances, so I was happy to listen with open ears. To my great surprise, my memory of the Carter is quite pleasant. If I recall correctly, it was a somewhat tumultuous piece that, like the Ibert, explored the range of the flute’s capability, and Rowe performed it stunningly. In the program notes, it is described as a conversation between soloist and orchestra, and I’m certain there are elements that will reveal themselves upon additional listens.
Hearing the Schubert was a great thrill for me, as I realized that I knew the piece better than I had ever remembered. While I cannot remember if I played the first or second violin part, I instantly recalled the fingerings to the melody, despite having not heard or thought about the piece in over ten years. While I have trouble remembering what I did just this morning, the robustness of those auditory/somatosensory memories is pretty astounding to me.
Finally, it was wonderful to hear the Brahms yet again (1st, 2nd), and again, there simply is no experience that matches the dynamic range and sheer power of a large live orchestra. It is likely that the BSO musicians know this piece intimately well, especially having performed it not one year ago, and the execution was excellent as always. I found that I’m not quite as familiar with the 4th movement as I am with the first three, so it was somewhat born again with novelty for me.